Pictured in the Governor’s office, left to right: Senator Carolyn McGinn (R); Mike Scheerer, LR Local 94; Troy Fansher, Local 1503; Governor Kelly (seated); Nick Davis, Local 527; Ty Dragoo, SLD Kansas; Chad Henton, ASLD Kansas; Kyle Brooks, Local 1503


In late April, members of the SMART Transportation Division joined Kansas legislators and Governor Laura Kelly at the state capitol in Topeka, where Governor Kelly officially proclaimed April 28th “A Day of Honor and Remembrance for Railroad Workers” in the state of Kansas.

Along with witnessing Kelly sign the proclamation, Mike Scheerer of LR Local 94 (Kansas City), Troy Fansher of Local 1503 (Marysville), Nick Davis of Local 527 (Coffeyville), Kansas State Legislative Director (SLD) Ty Dragoo, Alternate SLD Chad Henton and Kyle Brooks of Local 1503 joined the governor to discuss the vital role railroaders play in the state and in the nation at-large – as well as honor, recognize and remember the ultimate sacrifice some railroaders have made.

“Today reflects our ongoing relationship with Kansas’ government and the recognition that rail labor is vital to the state, and that we are appreciated,” Dragoo said. “It is a proud day for Kansas’ SMART Legislative Board.”

Dragoo also noted that Governor Kelly has been a steadfast champion of SMART TD members and all of rail labor throughout her time in state government. “She has proposed the two-person crew regulation and has been a steadfast wall of support when legislation is directed to harm our jobs,” he explained. “She has been there on every issue; she includes us in policy discussions, and we always have a seat in Kansas.”

The text of the proclamation is below:

WHEREAS, since the first railroad was chartered to carry freight and passengers in the United States in 1827, this nation’s railroads have been vital to the national economy and defense; and

WHEREAS, it is estimated that each American freight rail job supports 9 jobs elsewhere in the U.S. economy; and

WHEREAS, over one-fourth of all freight movement in ton-miles annually in this country occurs by rail, including many of the goods upon which Kansas residents and businesses rely; and

WHEREAS, thousands of passengers arrive, depart, and travel through Kansas on Amtrak passenger trains annually; and

WHEREAS, the rail lines crossing Kansas provide a vital transcontinental link facilitating the movement of this freight and these passengers; and

WHEREAS, the safe and efficient movement of the trains transporting this freight and these passengers
through Kansas is due foremost to the dedication, professionalism, and knowledge of those employees who are directly involved in train movements, including Train and Crew Dispatchers, Maintenance of Way personnel, Signal Maintainers, Mechanical personnel, and fully staffed two-person Train crews;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, LAURA KELLY, GOVERNOR OF THE STATE OF KANSAS, do hereby proclaim the day
of April 28, 2022, as

A DAY IN HONOR OF RAILROAD WORKERS.

SMART-TD, BLET protest outside of BNSF shareholder meeting in Omaha

The five highlighted areas are where protestors were allowed to congregate outside of the CHI Health Center where the BNSF shareholder’s meeting was being held.

While Berkshire Hathaway shareholders sat April 30 in comfort and national cable-news networks live-streamed and deified wealth hoarder Warren Buffett and his executive cronies at the company’s annual meeting, BNSF railroad workers, as always, were out in the elements doing the hard things – this time protesting.

Protesters gathered in the early-morning hours – some as early as 4 a.m. when the parking garages opened – to split up evenly to protest in five different areas outside of the CHI Health Center in Omaha, Neb. Doors opened to the shareholder meeting at 7 a.m., and the picketers wanted to be outside as the shareholders arrived. They were joined by two LED video billboard trucks slamming Buffett and BNSF CEO Katie Farmer for their Hi-Viz attendance policy.

LED video billboard trucks joined in the protest by driving in a loop around the health center to help gain attention for the picketers.

Carrying signs saying “They use us and abuse us,” “Fair wages, fair treatment,” and “Railroaders’ lives matter,” outside of the site of the so-called “Woodstock for Capitalists,” as members of the SMART Transportation Division, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), their respective auxiliaries and other members of rail labor mobilized in the rain outside CHI Health Center.

SMART-TD Auxiliary President Kathryn Seegmiller holds up signs outside of the meeting.

“We had a great turnout despite the weather. We were able to cross paths with I’d say around 90% of the participants that were walking into the building,” Alternate National Legislative Director Jared Cassity said of the around 60 protestors present.

“The crowd was fired up – it was divide and conquer. A very lively crowd,” said Vice President Chad Adams who joined in the two-hour protest.

Vice President Joe Lopez, Texas State Legislative Director Kamron Saunders, Colorado State Legislative Director Carl Smith, Missouri State Legislative Director Jason Hayden and New Mexico State Legislative Director Don Gallegos joined Adams, Cassity and SMART-TD Auxiliary President Kathryn Seegmiller at the protest.

Mobilizing our members as well were General Chairpersons Mike LaPresta (GO 001); Scott Swiatek (GO 009); and Luke Edington (GO 953).

“It was great seeing spouses and family involved in today’s protest showing their support,” Seegmiller said. “We want change and won’t be going away or backing down.”

Cassity echoed this sentiment saying, “It was great to see labor standing in solidarity, members shoulder-to-shoulder and fighting for what’s right for the membership. We’re taking the fight to the railroads and we’re not going to back down. The shareholders that were present at the meeting were there discussing the progress that they have made off of the backs of our members and it’s important that they understand that we won’t back down and we won’t go away until the right thing has been done.”

According to the Informational Protest – Omaha NE 2022 Facebook page, the picketers were regrouping and being joined by more supporters who could not make the morning session in the afternoon around 2:30 p.m.

Adams said that today’s movement is just the beginning.

“The group was talking about getting back together at the UP shareholders meeting next month – one thing builds another, just keep the pressure on and that’s what we can do,” he said.

According to the Facebook page, the group is in the early stages of planning another protest outside of the North American Rail Shippers Association annual meeting on May 9 – 11 in Kansas City, Mo., where CEOs from CP, BNSF and CSX are featured speakers.

Top left: A large crowd of SMART-TD and BLET members and their supporters gathered in solidarity. Top middle: Missouri SLD Jason Hayden (left) and National Safety Team Assistant Director Dan Bonawitz join in the protest. Top right: SMART-TD members come together in solidarity to picket. Middle left: Rallying speeches were made by leadership. Middle right: Picketers stand in the rain trying to get their message across to BNSF shareholders and the public. Bottom left: The rain did not deter picketers from getting their message across. Bottom middle: SMART-TD Vice President Chad Adams (left) and Texas SLD Kamron Saunders (second left) picket with SMART-TD members. Bottom right: BLET member Megan Lundy, BLET Vice President Rachel Pharris and SMART-TD Auxiliary President Kathryn Seegmiller band together for the first time to protest BNSF’s Hi-Viz attendance policy. Photos courtesy of VP Chad Adams and Auxiliary President Kathryn Seegmiller.

From left, Local Chairperson Chris Bond (Local 513, Gainesville Texas); Local Chairperson Steve Groat (Local 329, Boone, Iowa); General Chairperson Matt Burkhart (GCA-341); SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy Ferguson and AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department President Greg Regan wait to deliver their testimony before the Surface Transportation Board on April 26, 2022.


WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 26, 2022) — SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy Ferguson and three members of the union shed light April 26 on the devastating effects Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR) has had on customers and labor alike before the Surface Transportation Board (STB).

Their testimony came on the first day of STB’s hearing on “Urgent Issues in Freight Rail Service” convened in Washington, D.C.

President Ferguson’s testimony will begin immediately upon playing the video.

“As professionals, it’s painful to watch our shippers get bad service or no service at all, much higher rates, destroyed product and equipment, and in some cases having to resort to shipping by truck whenever possible,” President Ferguson said. “I want to make our voice heard that we stand with the shippers who want our professional service to keep the supply chain open and keep this country’s economy moving.”

President Ferguson referred back to the “safest and most productive era” of railroading years ago with more service flexibility, proper maintenance and full extra boards that has now been sacrificed for the higher stock prices sought by Wall Street investors through the implementation of PSR.

“Thousands of men and women have been laid off with reckless abandon while no consideration has been given to the service that has ultimately been forsaken,” he said. “All that is known to us and our members at this point is that the railroads are dead set on achieving the lowest operating ratio attainable at any cost.”

“Railroading, once revered as one of the most-coveted blue-collar jobs in the world, is now hemorrhaging employees at unprecedented rates because of the abusive work environments PSR has created. Truth is, employees are leaving the industry faster than the railroads can hire.”

He referenced the “Hi-Viz” attendance policy that BNSF implemented in February several times, stated that its implementation has led to the departure of 1,000 workers who were forced to choose between trying to attain enough sleep to safely work their next shift or try to spend limited time with family for a undervalued employee that often has only one day off a month.

“Now, because of PSR, two choices exist for rail labor: Work or be fired,” President Ferguson said.

Brother Burkart’s testimony will begin immediately upon playing the video.

General Chairperson Matt Burkhart (GCA-341), a fourth-generation railroad worker, yardmaster and member of Local 1975 (Kansas City, Mo.), testified that the relative simplicity of railroading over its nearly two centuries in the United States is being violated.

“It takes three things to railroad: Power, crew and rail. That’s it. Something to pull it, somebody to move it and something to run on,” said Burkhart, a former member of management. “You give us those three things and we can run all day long. We’re not running all day long right now.”

Burkhart mentioned the lengthy trains PSR has brought, many which exceed 10,000 feet when yards and sidings were made to accommodate World War II-era lengths of 3,000 feet. Not only does it take more moves to build or put a train away, it also takes more time, thus burning through the crew base.

Brother Burkhart also brought to light our equipment, including the hand-held radios supplied to our members, were not made to accommodate these types of train lengths either, stating that, “the radios do not work with the longer trains, hampering the crew’s ability to communicate when inspecting larger trains” he said.

“It just doesn’t make sense, it’s perpetuating manpower issues, it’s dangerous, and it’s not servicing our customers. All of it’s bad,” Burkart said.

And, lastly, BNSF, contrary to belief, has implemented PSR and has imposed its own data-driven metrics based on reducing resources and headcount for years, Burkart said.

He offered a pair of simple solutions looking back a decade and a half:

“It takes planning. It takes common sense,” Burkart said. “Two things can be legislated today: a maximum of 8,000 foot on trains. We don’t need these three-mile-long monsters running around. We need to disincentivize any reason to ever store a locomotive. In Donley Creek we have five miles of engines stored. There’s no reason for a train to sit without power.”

Brother Groat’s testimony will appear immediately upon playing the video.

Also testifying was Local Chairperson Steve Groat (Local 329 — Boone, Iowa), a Union Pacific engineer, who mentioned the slower velocity caused by inadequate track maintenance, derailments and mechanical failures caused, in part, by long trains.

“Since the increase in train lengths, I’ve noticed more hard wear,” he said — broken cars split in half, drawbars and knuckles being left on the ground. “These train lengths increase the in-train force that stresses the components that don’t normally fail.”

Travel times for trains also have increased and locomotive use hasn’t been efficient, Groat told the board.

“This is like hooking up a 28-foot camper to a Toyota Prius and trying to drive to Colorado,” he said. “At what time do you expect the engine to fail or a component of the locomotive to fail?”

Brother Bond’s testimony will appear immediately upon playing the video.

Local Chairperson Chris Bond (Local 513 — Gainesville, Texas), an engineer, spoke about BNSF’s throttle and power limitations that had been rescinded April 15 after the STB hearing had been announced.

“The carrier has put profit over everything,” Bond said. “Over customer service, over employees, even over safety.”

Hi-Viz also has caused an employee exodus and a personnel shortage at the carrier when there wasn’t one before, Bond said.

“This new policy has employees resigning in record numbers. I have several employees who are facing discipline and possible dismissal right now,” he said, including a single mother who has staggered custody of her child, now facing potential termination as a result of Hi-Viz.

“With BNSF losing people because of resignations and terminations, they’ve attempted to recall furloughed employees that are hearing of the current work environment and choosing not to return,” Bond said. “The new conductor trainees who are hiring on are quitting almost right away.”

The testimony from SMART-TD was preceded by Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO President Greg Regan, who recently detailed PSR-related meltdowns that have adversely affected shippers.

“The workers represented by TTD-affiliated unions have been sounding the alarm on the state of the freight-rail industry for years,” he said. “It’s deeply unfortunate but completely predictable that we would find ourselves here today as both railroad employees and customers sit before you to express a shared simple fact — that today’s freight-rail network is not working for anyone other than railroad investors.”

Regan reminded STB members that Class I railroads shrank their workforce well before the pandemic by 29 percent over the last six years — about 45,000 jobs and were making the system less flexible by storing equipment.

“The elimination of jobs across all crafts of the freight rail network has undoubtedly contributed to operational breakdowns and service degradation, including the ability to operate, inspect, maintain and repair every component of a railroad.”

He mentioned service disruptions experienced by customers of BNSF, Union Pacific and Norfolk Southern in recent months.

“For as long as these railroads continue along their current path, these meltdowns and service degradations will continue,” Regan said.

Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen Vice President Mark L. Wallace also testified on behalf of labor.

CLEVELAND, Ohio (March 23, 2022) — After thoroughly examining all possible avenues to best continue the unions’ fight against the BNSF Hi-Viz attendance policy, SMART-TD and the BLET announced today that they will proceed as expeditiously as possible to arbitration over the policy.

On February 22, 2022, a U.S. District Court ruled that the unions’ dispute over the policy constituted a “minor dispute” under the terms and conditions of the Railway Labor Act. The court’s use of “minor” does not signify the importance of the issue, but is only a legal term which provides that resolution of the matter must be by arbitration. In considering a potential appeal of the District Court’s ruling, it was determined that an appeal could take another one to two years, and likely not result in a different decision. An appeal would not be the quickest, or most effective way, to stop the BNSF policy. The quickest and most direct way to challenge this policy is through a Public Law Board or Special Board of Adjustment, properly constituted under Section 3 of the Railway Labor Act. That board will have the authority to strike down either the entire policy or the most egregious parts of the policy much more quickly. The time frame will be months as opposed to years.

As a result, BLET and SMART-TD general chairpersons have notified BNSF of their intent to move the dispute forward pursuant to Section 3 of the Railway Labor Act. Additional details will be provided to all involved union officers and members as they become available.

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The SMART Transportation Division is comprised of approximately 125,000 active and retired members of the former United Transportation Union, who work in a variety of crafts in the transportation industry.

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen represents nearly 57,000 professional locomotive engineers and trainmen throughout the United States. The BLET is the founding member of the Rail Conference, International Brotherhood of Teamsters.


Talking SMART: TD President Jeremy Ferguson Discusses ‘Hi-Viz’ Policy, National Rail Contract

CLEVELAND (April 6) — Leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure are asking the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to take action on a 2008 Congressional mandate to address rail worker fatigue at Class I carriers, with a specific reference to attendance policies such as those imposed at CSX, Union Pacific, and BNSF.

In an April 6 joint letter to FRA Administrator Amit Bose, Rep. Peter A. DeFazio (D-OR), Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, along with Rep. Donald M. Payne Jr. (D-NJ), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials, remind the FRA Administrator of the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (RSIA), which established a law requiring railroads to implement fatigue management and reduction plans.

U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio

“The Congressional mandate to mitigate fatigue among crewmembers and other safety-related workers is now a decade late,” Rep. DeFazio and Rep. Payne wrote. “Crewmembers and other craft workers have raised their concerns about being excessively exhausted at work, which is worsened by PSR. These workers cannot wait any longer, and neither can the communities through which trains travel. To mitigate attendance policies that contribute to fatigue and help ensure all safety-related workers are rested and prepared to do the job safely, we respectfully urge your agency to issue the fatigue risk management program final rule without delay, require its swift implementation, and meaningfully enforce it to ensure that the 2008 bipartisan Congressional mandate is met.”

U.S. Rep. Donald Payne Jr.

In the letter, Rep. DeFazio and Rep. Payne lay the cause of fatigue at the feet of the nation’s Class I railroads. The industry’s self-inflicted problems, such as inaccurate train lineups and the implementation of harsh attendance policies, contribute greatly to rail worker fatigue.

“We believe that attendance policies that not only contribute to fatigue but also penalize workers for taking off when fatigued or ill simply cannot co-exist with any serious fatigue risk management program,” the Representatives wrote. “Rather, these policies could incentivize employees to show up to work fatigued in order to avoid reprimand or termination. They also ignore the unfortunate reality that crewmembers already have unpredictable and unreliable schedules, which makes this line of work difficult for many, even before policies that further restrict their lives and abilities to obtain proper rest.”

Rep. DeFazio and Rep. Payne are also highly critical of the industry’s implementation of the so-called precision scheduled railroading (PSR) business operating model.

“Class I carriers have substantially reduced the size of their workforces since implementing precision scheduled railroading (PSR) at the behest of Wall Street investors. Unions representing railroad workers and individual workers have sounded the alarm on rail worker fatigue, which they believe is worsened by the deployment of PSR and the resulting push to do more work with nearly one-third fewer people on the job.”

Leaders of the nation’s two largest railroad unions, which represent the nation’s train operating crews, applauded the April 6 letter.

“We want to make it clear that we are fighting attendance policies at all Class I carriers. Fatigue has long been a problem at CSX, UP, BNSF, NS and other rail carriers, but it has been made much worse because of extreme job cuts resulting from the implementation of PSR coupled with the industry’s determination to force harsh attendance policies upon the remaining workforce,” said SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson and BLET National President Dennis Pierce. “SMART-TD and the BLET have also put the issue on the table in our national negotiations, currently in mediation, demanding that all imposed attendance policies be rescinded with negotiated attendance contract rules to take their place. On behalf of our members, we thank Representative DeFazio and Representative Payne for shining a light on this pressing issue in our industry and being vocal leaders for rail worker safety.”

Read the representatives’ letter (PDF)

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The SMART Transportation Division is comprised of approximately 125,000 active and retired members of the former United Transportation Union, who work in a variety of crafts in the transportation industry.

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen represents nearly 57,000 professional locomotive engineers and trainmen throughout the United States. The BLET is the founding member of the Rail Conference, International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

CLEVELAND, Ohio (April 5) — Five Republican U.S. representatives have contacted the BNSF Railway and encouraged its CEO to reengage with its operating unions to alter the highly-restrictive and punitive “Hi-Viz” attendance policy.

From left, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen President Dennis Pierce, U.S. Rep. Don Bacon of Nebraska and SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson meet April 4 at the Transportation Trades Department AFL-CIO Executive Committee meeting in Washington, D.C.

In a letter to Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) President Dennis Pierce, SMART Transportation Division (SMART TD) President Jeremy Ferguson and BNSF CEO Katie Farmer, the representatives encouraged a reengagement over the punitive policy, which docks employees for taking time off for medical appointments or funerals.

“We write today out of concern for BNSF Railway’s recently established absenteeism policy, called ‘Hi-Viz,’ and the growing number of resignations that have occurred since its implementation,” the representatives wrote. “Even a modest number of those resignations may pose additional stress to our already strained supply chain.”

Among the letter’s signatories were Rep. Don Bacon of Nebraska, who met with President Pierce and President Ferguson on April 4 at a meeting of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (AFL-CIO TTD) Executive Committee, the nation’s largest transportation labor coalition. Others signing included Brian K. Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, David McKinley of West Virginia, Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey and Chris Smith, also of New Jersey.

The Hi-Viz attendance policy requires rail workers to be available to work 29 of 30 days or risk being penalized. Thousands of well-paying unionized railroad jobs have been cut since implementation of the PSR strategy began in 2017. The Hi-Viz policy by BNSF and draconian attendance measures used by Class I railroads have led to additional attrition and a worker shortage as carriers try to undo the self-inflicted reductions they’ve made. President Pierce and President Ferguson said more than 700 BNSF operating employees have resigned since implementation of Hi-Viz on February 1, 2022.

The representatives concluded their letter by urging the BNSF to reengage in good-faith discussions with its unions to develop a more mutually acceptable attendance policy.

“We urge both sides to reengage in good-faith discussions to achieve a policy that works for all,” they wrote. “Only by working together can meaningful policies be developed, and mutual resolutions achieved … We view this as a crucial priority to maintaining a robust transportation system and a healthy supply chain.”

A PDF of the five representatives’ letter regarding Hi-Viz is available.

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The SMART Transportation Division is comprised of approximately 125,000 active and retired members of the former United Transportation Union, who work in a variety of crafts in the transportation industry.

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen represents nearly 57,000 professional locomotive engineers and trainmen throughout the United States. The BLET is the founding member of the Rail Conference, International Brotherhood of Teamsters

On Friday, April 1, the SMART Transportation Division sought Surface Transportation Board Administrator Martin Oberman’s intervention in ending the precision scheduled railroading (PSR) onslaught that has caused continual havoc in the United States’ supply chain and gutted the rail workforce.

SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson detailed the anti-worker attendance policies implemented by the nation’s largest freight rail carriers while echoing concerns expressed March 24 by the head of the National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA), a group representing more than 8,000 facilities and firms that provide goods and services to the nation’s grain, feed, and processing industries.

“We believe intervention from the STB is critically warranted and necessary to right the ship,” Ferguson wrote. “Simply put, the railroads cannot sustain the same level of production they had to prior to the advent of PSR given the number of drastic cuts they’ve made across their systems.”

Railroads have cut thousands of workers since the onset of PSR in 2017, placed thousands of locomotives in storage and have been running longer and slower trains to drive down their operating ratios (OR). NGFA President Mike Seyfert said this has led to “significant service disruptions,” for its represented companies served by BNSF, Union Pacific and Norfolk Southern, in particular.

“The service issues that our member companies are raising indicate that the problem is a network problem affecting entire regions of the country,” Seyfert said. “NGFA members have done as much as possible to keep animals fed, but the ability to stretch resources is exhausted.”

Rail carriers such as the Warren Buffett-owned BNSF, the Union Pacific and Norfolk Southern enjoyed record profits in 2021, even as rail traffic and carloads fell short of previous high marks. A main source of this revenue has been through tens of thousands of workforce cuts implemented well before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. With the service difficulties reported by NGFA, rail carriers have been doing less with less and reaping higher rewards at the expense of customers and workers.

“Not only has morale dropped to an all-time low, but employees are leaving the industry in unprecedented numbers,” Ferguson wrote to Oberman. “The freight rail network is at a breaking point. It cannot sustain any more reductions. Substantial changes must be made and they must be made quickly.”

According to union-collected data, Ferguson wrote, more than 500 employees have quit the industry since BNSF implemented a points-based policy Feb. 1. The “Hi-Viz” policy requires workers to be available to work 29 out of 30 days a month in order to avoid punitive deductions on their attendance records that eventually would lead to suspension and dismissal.

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The SMART Transportation Division is comprised of approximately 125,000 active and retired members of the former United Transportation Union, who work in a variety of crafts in the transportation industry.

In the current episode of Talking SMART, we sit down with SMART TD President Jeremy Ferguson to talk about a subject that is foremost on the minds of many members. In February 2022, BNSF arbitrarily changed its attendance policy and took advantage of a pro-management judge to force (as of now… this episode was recorded in early March), a draconian “Hi-Viz” attendance policy upon the very members who have kept the company operational through the pandemic – and who earned BNSF record profits in 2021. President Ferguson also provides an update on contract negotiations with the national rail carriers.

The BNSF “Hi-Viz” attendance policy drew the attention of the U.K.-based Guardian media organization March 14.

“We feel stabbed in the back, completely demoralized with the work we did through the pandemic, understanding the situation, going the extra mile, and doing what we’re asked to do, and then some without complaint,” an engineer for the Class I carrier told Guardian reporter Michael Sainato about the punitive points-based policy, described in the article as “arcane.”

Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO President Greg Regan also was quoted in the article as well:

“This is a policy that, frankly, is just blind to the moment,” he said.

SMART Transportation Division and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) are both members of the AFL-CIO TTD.

BNSF earned record profits last year and implemented the Hi-Viz policy on Feb. 1.

Read the full article.

CLEVELAND, Ohio (March 7, 2022) — In conjunction with the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), the SMART Transportation Division (SMART-TD) and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) urge all members to engage in a petition drive to bring attention to the draconian and punitive attendance policies that have forced rail workers to live in constant fatigue.

This effort comes simultaneously with a letter by AFL-CIO TTD President Greg Regan to the federal Departments of Labor and Transportation in support of both unions’ request in late January for an investigation into all rail carrier attendance policies, not just BNSF’s recently imposed “Hi-Viz” policy that has sparked outrage among all affected employees.

The petition is available here.

“We speak with one voice, shoulder-to-shoulder, in saying enough is enough. Congress must act to end these unsafe and life-sapping policies that punish workers with job loss. These severe and excessively harsh policies also penalize families by taking away what precious little time they have with their loved ones, leaving them dead tired and drained,” SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson and BLET President Dennis Pierce said. “We thank TTD President Regan as our organizations continue to oppose draconian carrier attendance policies, such as the BNSF ‘Hi-Viz’ policy. These policies are clearly designed to further maximize carrier profits at the workers’ expense. Our unions will work jointly with TTD to raise awareness of these issues; they have gone unchallenged by our legislators and regulatory agencies for much too long.”

A case in point— according to a report in Business Insider published on March 4, five Democratic political leaders want an investigation by the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) into Amazon’s attendance policies, and we have one question for them:

When do railroad workers get their turn?

Warren Buffett, while not as rich as Jeff Bezos, was crowing about BNSF’s record 2021 profits. It just so happens that his railroad, which happens to be the largest in the nation, imposed the draconian and punitive “Hi-Viz” policy that is absolutely in line with what Amazon is doing — points, permanent records and punishment for people if life gets in the way of work. Other Class I railroads have similar attendance policies. All of these need to be examined closely so that all workers receive the stable work-life balance that they DESERVE.

We’ve seen members’ posts on the internet, we have taken the calls and we have read and responded to the emails from our memberships. This is a top priority for SMART Transportation Division and BLET leaders. We need to work together and unite for a positive change instead of directing anger and discontent inward. As we continue to work with our elected leaders for the same help and support, it stands to reason that we will be reminding Senators Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Richard Blumenthal as well as Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Cory Booker and Cori Bush that they should push for answers from BNSF and other railroads with the same energy and focus that they are placing on Amazon.

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The SMART Transportation Division is comprised of approximately 125,000 active and retired members of the former United Transportation Union, who work in a variety of crafts in the transportation industry.

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen represents nearly 57,000 professional locomotive engineers and trainmen throughout the United States. The BLET is the founding member of the Rail Conference, International Brotherhood of Teamsters.